U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) (C) shakes hands with a worker at a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. Wed Nov 5, 2008 6:20pm EST By John Crawley WASHINGTON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama courted distressed U.S. automakers during his campaign and pledged to help them, but the industry's health is so bad it may not be able to wait for him to take office. "He's not here until January (20th) and that's a long time in the life of these companies at the moment," John Engler, a former Michigan governor and president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, said on Wednesday. Engler expects fundamental changes in industry before Obama's inauguration. Engler was not specific. General Motors Corp said on Wednesday it plans to reveal new cost cuts when it reports quarterly earnings on Friday. Results at GM and Ford Motor Co are expected to be dismal. Both GM and Ford congratulated Obama on his election and associated overall U.S. economic weakness with Detroit's worsening financial prospects. Automakers hold out hope the Bush administration, reluctant to bail out Detroit, will act before yielding power to Obama. Carmakers, their allies in Congress and other industries have called on the Treasury Department to extend loans or other capital as a stop gap. In coming weeks, companies and their lobbyists plan to "dial up" their urgency. Industry plans to underscore its belief that its immediate problems are not of its own making -- that the dire predicament is closely linked to the global credit crunch and survival depends on federal intervention. While GM and Ford struggle, prospects at Chrysler LLC are the most uncertain. People involved in discussions about its future say the smallest of the U.S. manufacturers could merge, be spun off or be pushed into bankruptcy if not helped soon. Engler said a Chrysler failure could cost up to 1 million jobs throughout the economy. "It's not just the three auto companies, it's suppliers, all the way down the chain," Engler said. While Obama is not yet in office, industry sources say he could still pressure the Bush administration and exert leverage on the Democratic-led Congress, if he believes action is needed to avert a broad economic crisis in manufacturing. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Wednesday for a $61 billion stimulus plan to spur the U.S. economy, but said passage later this month would depend on Senate Republicans and the mood of the White House. Pelosi met on Monday with auto industry allies in Congress and key committee chairmen. There is no consensus yet on an aid proposal for Detroit. Carmakers, their lobbyists and congressional officials have suggested up to $25 billion in direct loans with few or no strings attached to help them through the current crisis, officials said. Government red tape is holding up another $25 billion in advanced technology loans for automakers that was approved in September. During the campaign, Obama called on the Bush administration to accelerate that financing. The United Auto Workers (UAW) has suggested billions in congressionally approved aid could go to covering retiree health care costs, freeing up money that companies would otherwise have to contribute for benefits. Obama Win Emboldens Auto Bailout Backers Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shakes hands with workers at the GM Flint Engine South plant in Flint, Mich. With thousands of auto workers in Rust Belt states, Democrat Barack Obama promises government aid key to rebuilding U.S. automakers. By Alex Ortolani Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and U.S. auto-parts makers will greet President-elect Barack Obama with the same plea they have been making for months: We need help from Washington, and fast. GM, the biggest U.S. automaker, must get government aid because ``time is very short,'' said Roger Altman, the former Treasury official advising the company in its merger talks with Chrysler LLC. ``The consequences of a collapse by GM or all three could be very severe,'' Altman, 62, said in an interview. The industry's agenda for the new president will be topped by intensified calls for an immediate disbursement of $25 billion in low-interest loans signed into law by President George W. Bush Sept. 30. While the money is supposed to be for the development of fuel-efficient vehicles, automakers argue it should be freed up to meet current capital needs. Sympathetic lawmakers also have been calling for auto lenders, if not the manufacturers themselves, to get some of the $700 billion bailout fund set aside for financial institutions. ``Time is critical when it comes to availability of capital for this industry,'' said Dave McCurdy, chief executive officer of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents GM, Ford, Toyota Motor Corp. and eight other automakers. Needed `Right Now' ``That $25 billion is not hitting the street yet, and that's of major import to some of the companies right now,'' McCurdy said. GM sought about $10 billion from the government last month, with CEO Rick Wagoner lobbying in person, people familiar with the matter said. One or more automaker failures ``would be a difficult way for a brand-new administration'' to take office, said Altman, an Obama supporter whose Treasury Department service included working as deputy secretary under President Bill Clinton. Companies dependent on the automakers are also at risk, said Ann Wilson, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, which represents parts suppliers such as Johnson Controls Inc. and Lear Corp. ``We have a lot of members who are having trouble with the credit crisis right now,'' `she said. `We've got to figure out a way to keep the manufacturing base in this country.'' Plunging Sales Automakers and lawmakers are seeking aid amid decade-low auto sales in the U.S. this year and tight credit markets that caused $28.6 billion in first-half losses in 2008 at GM, Ford and Chrysler, owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP. GM said Nov. 3 its October sales plunged 45 percent in what it called the industry's worst month since 1945. Obama said in a speech Oct. 13 that funding for automakers should be on a ``fast track,'' and the government should provide ``more as needed.'' During his campaign, he promised to help keep auto manufacturing jobs in the U.S. with measures such as incentives for building vehicles that use less fuel. The outcome of the merger talks between GM and Chrysler may hinge on whether the companies can get government aid. The negotiations may intensify this week after the election, according to people familiar with the matter. Michigan lawmakers including Representative Joseph Knollenberg started a campaign in October for aid to the auto industry through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which authorizes the Treasury to spend as much as $700 billion to provide liquidity to the credit markets. Governors' Letter On Oct. 30, six governors from states including Michigan and Ohio sent a letter seeking help for automakers to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, saying the economic crisis ``threatens to create an unmanageable disaster at the state level.'' The highest priority for Obama will be to ``put the United States on the right track for an economic recovery by fixing the credit markets and restoring consumer confidence,'' Ford spokesman Mike Moran said in an e-mailed statement. He declined to comment on specific actions the automaker would prefer. A GM spokesman, Greg Martin, didn't respond to an inquiry about key issues for the automaker under the new administration. A Chrysler spokeswoman, Lori McTavish, declined to comment. The suppliers association also will work on getting a number of bills passed under the new president, spokeswoman Wilson said. Fuel Standards One law that has failed to pass this year and may come up again would crack down on the selling of counterfeit products that break intellectual property laws, such as brake pads and tires. Another would provide tax credits for heavy-duty vehicle suppliers that provide safety systems to drivers, Wilson said. Fuel-emissions standards in the U.S. and globally will also be an issue for automakers and the Obama administration, McCurdy said. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards passed this year require manufacturers in the U.S. to have car-and-truck fleets getting an average 35 miles per gallon by 2020. ``We've made a commitment to not only meeting those standards but recognize those standards will continue to rise in the future,'' McCurdy said. Obama said during his campaign he wanted to put at least 1 million so-called plug-in hybrid vehicles that would get as much as 150 miles per gallon on the road by 2015. He also said he would give consumers who buy the vehicles a $7,000 tax credit.